Saturday, 24 September 2011

Eating Spree!

I went to visit my friends in London, well, Kingston Upon Thames to be exact, over the weekend.

As soon as I arrived, we went out looking for food and did not stop until late evening when we headed back to the flat!

We started by heading into Camden Town. My friend brought us to a stall in one of the many markets, run by Malaysian, selling authentic Malaysian food. No photos taken as we were starving and could not wait to tuck in! We ordered the Kari Laksa, rice noodles in thick egg sauce (滑蛋河粉), meat sauce noodles (肉酱面) and a bowl of Wonton Soup.

The rice noodles were quite fragrant and tasted nice with lots of squids and prawns on it. Passable as authentic Malaysian dish but there are nicer ones in other places in London. The Kari Laksa was very authentic as we could taste rather strong curry (and other spices) flavour to it, would have been nice with a squeeze of lime juice though!

The meat sauce noodle was very hot and spicy, we thought it looked and tasted more like a different Chinese dish (tomato aubergine in fish sauce dish) rather than a proper meat sauce noodle dish. However, the most shocking thing was the amount of chicken stock (most possibly made from chicken stock powder) put into the Wonton soup. It was incredibly salty and we could feel our thirst getting worse and worse by each mouthful!

After walking around a few more markets in Camden, we headed towards an ice-cream shop selling rather unique ice-creams. Unique in the way they were made rather than the tastes or looks of the ice creams as they looked exactly the same as any other ice creams. Chin Chin Laboratorists, as mentioned in Time Out London, uses very raw material to make ice cream right in front of customers! The place looks like a laboratory with liquid nitrogen tanks, test tubes, glass flasks, people in lab coats and so on.

You might have already guessed, yes, they use liquid nitrogen to freeze flavoured cream immediately to make ice creams!

One can choose from three different flavoured ice-cream, then choose a syrup before choosing the toppings!

Coffee Popcorn Ice Cream with toffee syrup and hazelnuts
Dark Chocolate Ice Cream with Dark choc syrup and hazelnuts
Vanilla Ice cream with dark choc syrup and roasted white chocs

The ice-creams were silky and creamy like any other good ice-creams. Very nice flavour combinations. For the price of each cup, we could have bought a big tub of Haagen Dazs or Ben & Jerry, but the experience of it all was well worth it.

Dessert done, you thought we would have stopped there and headed home? No, no, no...we still needed to complete our day with dinner!

So we headed to Hoxton, London for Vietnamese food! On the bus, we saw several Vietnamese restaurants along the street, some with very long queues, some with minimal customers inside.

So we went into one highly recommended by my friend (which of course had a really long queue out the door!) - Song Que. This place was voted TimeOut London Hot 50 restaurants to visit!

For starters, we ordered, prawn goi cuon (prawn spring rolls), char-grilled quails and fried soft-shelled crabs.

Prawn gỏi cuốn

Goi Cuon is a traditional Vietnamese spring roll made of prawns (pork, sometimes chicken or tofu), fresh herbs, lettuce and rice vermicelli wrapped in moistened rice paper.

It has the freshness of salad wrapped in cool rice paper which makes it a rather summery dish. I loved the combination of ingredients used which makes it so refreshing, tasty and bursting out with flavours of South-east Asia!

Deep Fried Soft-shelled Crabs

The  deep fried soft-shelled crabs were also absolutely delicious! It was deep fried in salted batter which reminded me so much of the the 'Big Fried Chicken' I had in Taipei last September.

It was very tasty with very balanced seasoning of the batter, seafoody taste of the crab, with a hint of spiciness from the red chilies.

Char-grilled Quails

The char-grilled quails, although may sound un-appetising to some, is a must-try! It has such amazing smoky flavour to it, and very well seasoned. Dipped into the nice home-made sauce, it was totally 'finger-licking-good'!

It had the texture of chicken, and tastes like chicken, so those of you who are still a bit apprehensive about eating it, do give it a try, trust me, it is good!

Grilled Pork, Shredded Pork, Spring roll with Rice Vermicelli

Then came the main course. One of my very favourite Vietnamese dish - rice vermicelli, served cold with fish sauce! The dish came very neatly presented, a splash of the accompanying sweet chilli sauce and mix the ingredients together then it's ready to be consumed.

Each ingredient on its own was very tasty but the combination of them makes it an even more delightful and mouth-watering dish!

The smoky grilled pork was full of flavours and the spring rolls (this time deep fried) had a really nice crunch to it and very tasty too! The deep fried chopped oninos, shredded carrots, daikon and cucumber just add another dimension to the many different textures in the dish and was very refreshing!

Even though I was getting very full from a whole day of feasting, I had to finish the rice vermicelli as it was just simply delicious!

Of course, my trip to Kingston will not be complete without a proper English afternoon tea!

So we headed to John Lewis departmental store, and what drew my attention was the name of the restaurant, as it was simply called 'The Place to Eat' - how very appropriate.

Banoffee Tart

We had a lovely looking banoffee tart that looked rather pretty and appetising. I found the cream a bit too light, the toffee not sweet enough and there was not enough bananas, but I must say that the tart pastry was well made.

Cheese Scone with clotted cream and jam

Then we had a rather unique cheesy scone, my first time having a savoury scone. We put lots and lots of clotted cream and raspberry jam on it and it was not that bad afterall!

Now that my stomach was filled up, I was ready for the 3 hours drive back to Cardiff.

A very interesting weekend with lots of food and it was absolutely nice to see my friends!

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Classic Lasagne

100% homemade with Jamie Oliver's very own recipe!

In the past, I have made several attempts, not so successful attempts, to make a traditional lasagne, and it was always because I could not handle the lasagne sheets properly. To boil and cook first or to use dry, straight from the packet? That was the one thing that always baffled me!

Once, my lasagne had really HARD lasagne sheets where they turned out like rubber sheets because I followed the packet instruction which told me I could use it straight from the box. Then another time, thinking that dried lasagne sheet was the culprit to my failed lasagne, I bought fresh lasagne sheets, boiled them in salted/oiled water, and they were all stuck together!

I have tried several different methods and recipes, from using ready made white and red sauce to making everything from scratch, including the sauce.

This time, I wanted to make everything from scratch (except the lasagne sheets, of course). So I went all over the internet looking for the perfect (well......easiest!) recipe to make the bolognese and white sauce.

Most of them are rather complicated, time consuming and required many, many ingredients. Then I remembered that I had this Jamie Oliver's cookbook sitting on my bookshelf, and I remembered that he made this dish on one of his TV shows before.

Hence, I found this nice and easy recipe to follow which produces a beautiful and tasty traditional lasagne - Jamie Oliver's very own recipe!

This time I bought dried lasagne sheets and boiled them in salted water, and most of them did not stick together! What a relief!

The beauty of lasagne is its many layers of bolognese, lasagne sheets and white sauce. Layers upon layers of different textures and flavours give it such an incredibly complex structure and taste!

Chopped vegetables

The bolognese - Chopped up carrots, celery, onions, garlic and smoked streaky bacon stir-fried with lots of dried oregano. Then minced pork (or beef or both) and tins of chopped tomatoes stirred in with some fresh basil and seasoned with sea-salt and black pepper. You can imagine the fragrant aroma coming from the pan and the bag full of flavours in the pan.

Minced meat and chopped tomatoes added

The lasagne assembly - One third of the bolognese was layered at the bottom of a large baking dish, then layer the lasagne sheets on top before covering it with creme fraiche. Grated parmesan cheese was then evenly distributed on the creme fraiche and seasoned with salt and pepper. This was repeated three times ending with creme fraiche on top. More parmesan cheese was sprinkled on top and some sliced beef tomatoes and basil leaves were used to decorate the surface.

First layer

Creme fraiche layer - seasoned

Ready to be baked!

This time, the lasagne sheets were soft and robust but the bolognese was a bit watery as I did not shimmer it for the full 45 minutes as instructed and I took the lasagne out of the oven 10 minutes early as we were starving! But nevertheless, it still look amazing and tastes incredibly 'delish'!

Traditional Lasagne

Crunchy and super cheesy top layer with the sour and sweet'ish' beef tomato, flavourful bolognese with basil, sweet carrots and onions, fragrant streaky bacon and oregano. Delicious!

One portion lasagne

Layers of goodness!

I love lasagne - comfort food!

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Chocolate Fudge Cake

I like chocolates and I like chocolate cakes even more!

However, I never attempted to make my own chocolate cakes as I thought that it would be difficult to make a perfect one.

Today, I am braving it and found a rather easy to follow recipe in 'frame>by>frame baking'.


As you can see from the many ingredients involved, it is one of the more difficult cakes that I have ever made. It involves two different processes including making the chocolate sponge and the chocolate icing.

Chocolate Sponge ready to bake

The chocolate sponge mixture was separated equally into two springfoam tins then baked for about 30-35 minutes. I baked them for 30 minutes, checked them, then decided to give them another 2 more minutes.

Icing spreaded on cake

Then I took out the icing that I left to cool in the fridge earlier to spread on the cake. The cakes were sandwiched together with half the icing then the remaining icing was spread over the top and sides of the cake.

Icing the cake was really fun and therapeutic as I used an icing palette knife to spread the icing round and round and round and round the cake until it was almost smooth with a frosted look!

Slice of cake

I could not wait to have a slice of my favourite chocolate fudge cake!

It was very rich and tasty. Although I should have baked the sponges for only 30 minutes as I thought the sponge was a little bit dry ie not as moist as I would like them. The taste was amazing though, with ground almonds added to the cake mixture, it tastes as good as it smells!

Rich, sweet and high in cholesterol with lots and lots of butter and chocolate! That's why it tastes as good as a rich chocolate cake should be! Yummy!

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Stuffed Chicken Breast

I am trying to be adventurous today and decided to cook stuffed chicken breast.

Instead of cooking from recipe, this time I used what experience I had from following recipes and came up with this dish.

Firstly, I diced a few tomatoes, grated cheddar cheese and mixed them all up in a big bowl with grated parmesan cheese and dried thyme before seasoning with salt and pepper. This forms the stuffing which I later added into 2 chicken breasts. Then I seasoned the chicken breasts with more salt and pepper.

Thinking how to keep the chicken breasts juicy and moist having to be roasted in the oven for over an hour, I wrapped them in smoked streaky bacon. This not only kept the chicken juicy, it also added another dimension of flavour to the chicken breasts.

Chicken served with mashed sweet potato and peas

It worked! The chicken breasts came out moist and juicy on the inside and full of flavour from 2 different cheeses, herby thyme and sourness from the tomatoes!

Stuffed with cheeses, tomatoes and thyme

I also made cheesy mashed sweet potatoes to accompany the chicken breasts. With some leftover chicken stuffing, I stir fried them with boiled green peas and served with the chicken.

Cooking can be fun and eating is even more fun!